The skunk is a most intriguing species. Because of the powerful odor it emits when cornered, it is often described as disgusting and despicable. Being an animal, however, it has no control over its behavior and instincts.

When it comes to man, on the other hand, the name and reputation he creates for himself will determine whether his neighbors will befriend him because of his “fragrant” surroundings or distance themselves from him due to the unpleasant “smell.” King Shlomo alluded to this when he said: “A [good] name is better than good oil.”1

A person’s positive reputation creates a pleasant “smell” and environment for him, whereas his lowly behavior produces an awful odor for those in his presence. Man is endowed with the Divine gift of free choice. When he abuses this privilege and falls victim to negative behavior, he is considered to be a carrier of a far worse odor than the skunk. The aura he exudes “smells” of a person who detests his fellow man, preventing him from approaching and engaging in any type of friendship.

From Nifla’os HaTeva, vol. 1, p. 39